The clean-up operation for Superstorm Sandy -- which is expected to cost around €15.5bn -- is now in its sixth day. Sandy, which left millions of Americans without power, closed Wall Street and dropped up to two feet of snow in West Virginia, battered Canada and the east coast of the US all last week.
Although the extent of the devastation has never been witnessed in Ireland, we are no strangers to extreme weather. As winter rears its ugly head yet again, could you get caught out by any ordeals the season throws your way? If you've chosen the wrong home insurer -- or have cut corners with your home insurance -- this winter could turn into one hell of a financial nightmare.
It's almost two years since Ireland was hit with its lowest temperatures ever -- and snow and ice plunged the country into chaos.
If Gallagher is right, and you find yourself grappling with Arctic headaches in a couple of months, don't assume that your insurer will cover the cost of any snow damage to your home.
"A lot of people weren't covered when snow took down their gutters a couple of years ago," said Jonathan Hehir, managing director of the insurance broker coverinaclick.ie.
"Many insurers don't consider snow damage to be storm damage. Some treat it as accidental damage and cover it in that way -- but some won't cover you for any damage caused by snow at all."
AXA, for example, said that "sudden and unforeseen damage caused by snow accumulation, such as snow slipping off the roof and pulling down guttering, would be covered -- if the customer has accidental damage".
Remember, however, accidental damage is not always covered in home insurance -- and you may have to pay extra for it.
If you have a flat roof, you could soon be cursing any winter wonderland outside your home.
If your flat roof is over a certain size or age -- and it buckles under the weight of heavy snow, your insurer may not cover the damage. You should therefore find out exactly where you stand with your insurer if your felt roof is damaged -- or causes damage to your home.
With Allianz, for example, you won't be covered if the roof is more than 10 years old and made of torched-on felt. If your roof is made of any other felt, Allianz won't cover you if it is more than five years old.
Liberty Insurance said it would take a number of things into consideration when deciding whether or not to cover damage caused after a flat roof buckled under the weight of snow, including whether the snow had built up over a period of time or was caused by a storm. "Snow damage is not an insured peril if not related to a storm," said the spokesman.
FBD said it would usually cover damage caused after snow prompted a flat roof to cave in as long as "accurate information" was provided when the customer initially sought the insurance. For example, if you buy your insurance online with FBD, it assumes that your flat roof is no more than a fifth of the overall roof area of your house. If your flat roof is bigger than this, you could be in trouble.
STILETTOS ON ICE
Unless you want to face a raft of medical bills this winter, avoid the stiletto heels when getting out and about during any cold snap.
Most home insurers won't foot the doctor's bill should you or anyone else in the family break a leg -- or anything else -- slipping on ice in your driveway. However, if your postman or a visitor breaks their leg slipping in your driveway, your insurer may cover their medical bills -- but usually only if the injury was caused by negligence on your part. "If the driveway froze overnight after a sudden freeze, there is not likely to be a case of negligence as the policyholder could not reasonably be expected to have done anything," said Liberty Insurance.
The bill for damage caused by burst pipes can easily run into tens of thousands of euro -- particularly if the water is running for a few weeks before you notice it.
If you have a holiday home, be very cautious this winter. Many insurers will only cover damage caused by a burst pipe to a holiday home or investment property that is unoccupied during the winter if water, gas and electricity are turned off at the mains. Insurers may also expect the owner of a holiday home to drain the water or heating system while it is unoccupied unless the property has a central heating system which is left on all the time -- and the thermostat is set to at least 13 degrees Celsius.
Even if you don't have a holiday home, you could still find yourself out of pocket if your home is damaged by a burst pipe. Over the past two years, many insurers have increased the excess -- the first part of claim you must pay yourself -- for damage caused by burst pipes. This excess could be as high as €1,500, according to Mr Hehir.
If there's a hurricane coming your way and you have an old silver birch in your garden, do you need to worry about your insurer not coughing up should the tree crash through your roof?
As storm damage claims are usually straightforward, most insurers will foot the bill for any damage caused to a roof by a fallen tree. Of course, if you have a felt roof, there may be restrictions to the cover provided by your insurer.
Regardless of the type of roof, you usually have to pay a storm damage excess which is typically between €125 and €350.
If you're living in a flood-prone area -- or an area with a history of flooding, your chances of getting your insurer to cover any damage caused to your home by floods are slim.
However, even if you're not in a flood-prone area, if you live within 100m of a river, stream or tidal waters, your insurer might not pay up for any flood damage.
"When you're buying home insurance, some insurers will ask if you live within 100m of a river, stream or tidal waters," said Mr Hehir. "If you do, but don't disclose this at the time, your insurer may turn down a flood damage claim -- even if that river or stream had nothing to do with the flood itself."
Be particularly careful to read any assumptions made about your cover when buying insurance online -- your quote may be given on the condition that you don't live within 100m of a stream or river.
Don't be tempted to keep quiet about the presence of a nearby river or stream when buying home insurance as your insurer will usually find out should you make a claim. "If you have flood damage, your insurer will send a loss assessor out and he or she will see that there is a stream or river nearby," said Mr Hehir.
So before you try to pull the wool over your insurer's eyes -- or save a few quid by cutting corners on your home insurance, remember that you could cost yourself tens of thousands of euro down the line by doing so. Particularly, if anything like Superstorm Sandy comes your way.